A SOAP star officially relaunched a tennis club in Caversham.
Rudolph Walker, who plays Patrick Trueman in EastEnders, cut the ribbon at the refurbished clubhouse at Mapledurham Tennis Club, off Upper Woodcote Road, on Saturday.
The 74-year-old actor, who also starred in Love Thy Neighbour and The Thin Blue Line, lives in Caversham and has been a member of the club for more than 40 years.
The clubhouse has been refurbished over the last four months thanks to a £38,800 grant from Sport England and £27,700 contributed by the club itself.
Mr Rudolph said: I have been a member going back to 1973 and the club has come a long way since then. I remember when we had to put buckets down when it was raining.
He still finds time to play tennis despite his busy filming schedule. I cant get here as much as I would like to but I come from time to time, he said. The club has always been very family friendly and that is what I remember about it. I live locally and my kids grew up here. It is home to me, so it means a lot to be here and support the club.
About 50 people attended the relaunch, where there was a barbecue, bouncy castle, fastest serve competition and tennis taster sessions. Tennis rackets and kit from Henley Sports were on sale and manager Alan Mann was restringing tennis rackets free of charge. David Maynard, a member of the club who managed the refurbishment, said it was lucky that Mr Rudolph could attend.
He gets his schedule for the week on Fridays so he couldnt tell me if he would be able to make until two days before, he said. It was absolutely fantastic to have him here. He is such a nice guy.
The clubhouse was badly in need of a makeover as the windows and doors were rotting and two courts needed resurfacing.
A large wooden verandah has been built on to the front of the clubhouse with glass folding doors and wheelchair access and the interior has been repainted and fitted with new carpets. There are also new disabled toilets. The courts have been re-surfaced and refenced, the car park improved and the area around the courts landscaped.
Mr Maynard said: To come down here every day and make sure it was all going ahead as planned has been a full-time job but I have enjoyed it and Im delighted to see it finished.
I think it compares well with other clubs in the area and I think we will attract a lot of new members. We have already had a lot of interest. Hopefully, we will go up in numbers and then its just about keeping the momentum going.
The Sport England grant, which was part of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy programme, is a boost for the campaign to replace Mapledurham pavilion, which is next to the club.
Reading Borough Council has pledged capital and the Warren and District Residents Association has so far raised about £40,000.